Elle Germany has issued a public apology after the magazine’s most recent issue declared that “Black is Back,” a statement that has been widely interpreted as implying that black models are a “trend” to be capitalized on by the fashion industry.
The controversy first broke on October 29th, when popular Instagram account Diet Prada pointed out the offending page, as well as several other mistakes they found in the November 2019 “Back to Black” issue of the magazine. Not only was the phrase “Black is Back” problematic, Diet Prada pointed out that model Naomi Chin Wing was misidentified as Janaye Furman, and was further incredulous that the “Back to Black” issue featured a white model on the cover.
“For their November 2019 issue, the presumably white-led publication declares that ‘black is back.’ Ironic when they, along with much of the fashion industry, have been complicit in denying visibility to black models until relatively recently,” reads the post’s caption. “The issue, titled ‘Back to Black,’ also features a white model on the cover. You can’t make this stuff up!”
The response to Diet Prada’s Instagram post, which has been liked over 98,000 times as of this writing, was swift and furious. At best, commenters referred to the the gaff as “good intention, poor execution”; at worst, the page and wording was dubbed “sickening,” “racist,” “offensive on every level,” and “the cover line from hell.”
According to TODAY, fashion icon Naomi Campbell even joined the conversation, releasing a statement that called the mistake “highly insulting in every way” and offering to sit down with Elle Germany and offer some guidance on cultural sensitivity. “I’ve said countless of times we are not a TREND,” said Campbell.”We are here to STAY. It’s ok to celebrate models of color but please do it in an ELEGANT and RESPECTFUL way.”
The backlash quickly made its way back to Elle, and the publication issued a public apology on its own Instagram account less than a day later.
“In our current issue, we are approaching the color black from different angles. As one of our topics, it was our aim to feature strong black women who work as models for the fashion industry. In doing so, we have made several mistakes for which we apologize to anyone we might have hurt,” reads the statement.
“It was a mistake to use the cover line ‘Back to black’ which could be understood as if black persons would be a kind of fashion trend. This obviously wasn’t our intention and it was our mistake not to be more sensitive about this.”